Master of the Mystic Arts Edition--With his grand return in The New Avengers and The Defenders, I was thinking about Doc and his place in the Marvel Universe during the Silver Age so....

  • How publicly known was Doctor Strange? In his first appearances in Strange Tales, ordinary people with extraordinary problems are able to contact him for help. Yet later on his role as Sorcerer Supreme is supposed to be a secret. Are there mystic "fans" out there who know about him? How reclusive was he?
  • When did the heroes realize there was a sorcerer on Bleeker Street? He popped up briefly in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, teamed with Spidey in AS Annual #2 and aided the Fantastic Four in their title, #33 (?). But how much interaction did Doc have with the early MU?
  • More importantly, when did he first meet the Incredible Hulk? They had Marvel's greatest and weirdest Bronze Age friendships.
  • How crippled were his hands? I know he couldn't do surgery anymore but he kept doing those hand gestures! Much later, it was shown that he used sorcery to mask how scarred his hands were. Perhaps that was part of Wong's duties: to help the Doctor do the everyday tasks he was no longer capable of doing.
  • Was Doctor Strange superhuman? I know it was supposed to be all training and discipline but could mystic aptitude be a super-power? Was he that one person who had the greatest potential to succeed the Ancient One? Could anyone have been the Sorcerer Supreme with the right studying like, say, Peter Parker or Reed Richards?
  • What was the Ancient One doing during World War II? In the comics, the Nazis were searching for mystical artifacts. Were any Golden Age heroes ret-connedly linked to the Ancient One?
  • Both now and then, the relevant question was why wasn't Doctor Strange part of the Avengers? Tony didn't want another guy with a mustache around? He didn't like the commute? He was offended that the Scarlet Witch wasn't really a witch? They wanted to give him a super-hero name? There had to be a reason, beyond that Ditko drew him!

So by the Vishanti and the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth, Let there be answers!

 

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When I searched for Incredible Hulk #126, I was surprised that Doctor Strange wasn't even mentioned on the cover and that it ended with his "retirement".
 
Luke Blanchard said:

The Doctor Strange/Sub-Mariner/Incredible Hulk story that Henry mentioned was included in the first volume of Essential Defenders. (The GCD's page on the volume has story synopses.) That was the last issue of that volume of Doctor Strange, so what the other titles were doing was winding up its final storyline.

 

According to www.dcindexes.com Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 came out the same month as Strange Tales #124 (#2 came out the same month as Strange Tales #138). The Loki story appeared in Strange Tales #123.

Lee Falk wasn't above rewriting his own continuity - the original Derek/origin story from 1948-49 ended differently to the 1976 version, which was reprinted in the Tempo Books paperback - so I can't say there wasn't a version of his origin such as you describe, Henry. If so, I think it must have appeared early on. In the two versions of the Derek/origin story Mandrake's and Derek's father was a stage magician who took them to the College of Magic and enrolled them there. The head of the college was Theron. Theron was eventually - after decades - revealed to be Mandrake's father, but I don't know anything about that story.

 

I've only read two or three of the continuities from the 1930s. As I recall, Mandrake performs a magic ritual - if memory serves, a black magic ritual - in the course of the first daily storyline. In some sequences I've seen from later in the decade he performs stunts that can't be interpreted as hypnotic stunts. For example, at the start of "Mandrake in the Lost World" (1936-37) he saves a woman from being accidentally run over by levitating the car over her. When he has to jump out of a plane without a parachute he halts himself in the air until Lothar can finish preparing a soft landing. Then he magics up a hat and bow tie for a penguin, which is still wearing them later in the story. On the other hand, he stops a caveman's pursuit of a woman by making the ground under his feet run backwards, and then explains this as "all in the mind".

 

Somewhere along the way, probably by the start of the 1940s, Falk switched to the idea that his tricks were hypnotic. So in "The Witch of Kaloon" (1943) he makes one opponent sink into the ground and another rise into the air, and we're shown that both opponents are really sitting on the floor. By the 1970s some strips would show us what Mandrake seemed to do and what he was actually doing.

 

In stories I've seen from the later 1940s or earlier 1950s he employed telepathic abilities. For example, in more than one story from this period (I think) he gets people to project an image of someone they've seen through one of their eyes. Somewhere along the way he also started telepathically communicating with Theron using a crystal cube, which was explained at some point as magnifying mental power. In the 1976 version of the Derek/origin story he and Derek employ telekinesis, which Mandrake refers to as using mental jabs or mental punches.

 

Even in the first daily storyline there's a bit where he's doing something magical and stops, and the effects of his magic instantly vanish, as if the feat were an illusion. Likewise there's a bit early in the first Sunday storyline where he demonstrates his powers to prove he's not a stage magician, and then stops, and everything is instantly as it was before he started employing his powers. So the idea that his powers involve illusion wasn't completely a break with how his magic had earlier been portrayed. Of course, his later "hypnotism" was apparently a kind of super-hypnotism rather than the real-world type.

 

Mandrake's face was based on Lee Falk's, incidentally. I think he said when he was creating the strip he realised he could get the face right each time by looking in a mirror.

(corrected)

How crippled were his hands? I know he couldn't do surgery anymore but he kept doing those hand gestures! Much later, it was shown that he used sorcery to mask how scarred his hands were. Perhaps that was part of Wong's duties: to help the Doctor do the everyday tasks he was no longer capable of doing.


The loss of the kind of subtle articulation needed to perform delicate surgery might arguably not impact on normal use of one's hands, while still effectively runining a surgical career. I can't speak for magical gestures of course but given what was shown in the comics, it didn't seem to matter.

There was a Dr. Strange mini series in 1999 that had to do with him needing to operate on someone and not having the confidence in his hands to do so, and so he inhabited the body of another surgeon and guided him (her? Can't remember).

Both now and then, the relevant question was why wasn't Doctor Strange part of the Avengers? Tony didn't want another guy with a mustache around? He didn't like the commute? He was offended that the Scarlet Witch wasn't really a witch? They wanted to give him a super-hero name? There had to be a reason, beyond that Ditko drew him!

As a reader, I never thought of him as a candidate for the Avengers so I never questioned his absence. As somebody pointed out, he wasn't a joiner, though that being said, he was in the Defenders from the get-go, though I didn't follow it. However I did read a few issues that David Anthony Kraft wrote (I liked his character Devil-Slayer/Demon Hunter), where the line-up was more magic based and thought they were pretty good.

How publicly known was Doctor Strange? In his first appearances in Strange Tales, ordinary people with extraordinary problems are able to contact him for help. Yet later on his role as Sorcerer Supreme is supposed to be a secret. Are there mystic "fans" out there who know about him? How reclusive was he?

I seem to remember scenes where he would be recognized on the street and people would remark how weird he looked. My feeling is that, like Fables, he had some kind of spell that defected actual attention, but seemed not to prevent casual notice. Or maybe he just got a kick out of freaking people out occasionally. :)

Was Doctor Strange superhuman? I know it was supposed to be all training and discipline but could mystic aptitude be a super-power? Was he that one person who had the greatest potential to succeed the Ancient One? Could anyone have been the Sorcerer Supreme with the right studying like, say, Peter Parker or Reed Richards?

That's like saying that anyone who studies painting from a great teacher can be a great painter. The fact that Peter Parker or Reed Richards where good at what they did doesn't mean they had a talent for sorcery. And I would imagine that the Ancient One would be very aware of who had potential and who didn't, and would not bother with someone who he didn't think had what it takes. That being said, his mentoring of Baron Mordo does reveal him to be a rather bad judge of character.

Andy

I remember a story where Doc tried performing an operation, while noting that his hand was shaking. It's been years, but I think he succeeded, although he was a nervous wreck the entire time, and turned his hand unsolid during much of the operation to minimize any damage the shaking might have caused his patient.

The Raven is also where Gary Gygax got "magic missile", "fireball", and the "shield" spell from. And Boris Karloff, who was old and sick and whose face was very craggy by that point, looked quite a bit like Mordo if you imagine him with dark hair.

I've also wondered what happened with Victoria Bentley. Doc says she has magic potential, then we don't see her again for quite awhile. Ditko then introduces Clea and Vicky is pretty much gone after that. After Doc released evil magic into the world while fighting Zom (who he released to get rid of Umar, meaning Doc is doing one stupid thing after another since Ditko left) we see her as one of the new wizards being forced to obey Mordo. Doc takes her new found powers away from her, along with the powers of all the other new wizards, and, in an incredible display of stupidity trust gives all this evil power to Mordo, who not surprisingly blasts him with it when he says he needs to remove it from the villain. Strange Tales ends with Doc hunting down and saving Victoria. After that I think she turned up at some point in Dr. Strange's 70s series but I stopped reading that series not long after Dracula turned him into a vampire.

Did Doc ever get back the powers some nitwit had him lose in the 90s, when the Vishanti, Raggadorr, Cyttorak, and the others all turned against him, and that weird "Strange" character appeared? That drove me right out of that series so I have no idea how it turned out.

Why didn't Doc join the Avengers? In the beginning he was too minor a character, only in a couple of five pagers with no guarantee he was going to keep showing up. At that point they might as well have brought back Dr. Droom. When he showed up #61 and asked for help fighting Surtur and Ymir, they went along with him, but they didn't exactly seem like they were very eager to ask him to join. I think he was too powerful anyway, and it was difficult enough to explain why Hawkeye and the Black Panther and the Wasp were bothering to show up to meetings when Thor was there.

The Avengers/Defenders War showed that Dr. Strange was a master of martial arts. Mantis said only three other people had ever been able to avoid her attacks. Don't think she ever said who they were. 

I believe Mandrake became a hypnotist because using real magic was unpopular at the time he debuted. Chandu appeared in one film with Bela Lugosi as the villain mocking him for having only hypnotic powers, then about a year later Bela played Chandu in a serial and had him use real magic. I believe Bela did the travel out of the body to visit the "master" bit in the serial, but it's been a long time since I saw it. I know he used a powerful spell in the last chapter.

 

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